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Employment tribunal fees – what does the future hold for employment tribunals?

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When the Supreme Court reached its landmark decision on the legality of employment tribunal (ET) fees last summer (we previously blogged about this here) the court reviewed the evidence regarding the effect of fees on ET claims and noted there had been “a dramatic and persistent fall in the number of claims” since fees were controversially introduced in 2013.

The government announced in October 2017 that the first claimants eligible for fee refunds would be able to apply (again we have previously blogged about this here). The refund scheme was opened fully from November 2017. The government also confirmed that fee refunds would include an interest payment of 0.5 per cent. The Justice Secretary, David Gauke, has commented that the scheme is making “reasonable progress” however he has also commented that it is “unlikely” to achieve the predicted £17 million of refunds in 2017/18.

As at the end of 2017, the number of ET claims lodged had risen by two-thirds since the Supreme Court decision. This appears to suggest that disgruntled employees are more inclined to take matters to tribunal, or at least start the process to apply pressure on employers to settle.

Notably the uptake of claimants requesting reinstatement of their claims (which had previously been rejected or dismissed for non-payment of a fee) has been low, and deterred claims (claims that could have been made during the fees period but were not because fees had an alleged deterrent effect) are not thought to be contributing to the rise in claims.

While claims are unlikely to increase to the level they stood at before the introduction of fees the tribunal offices up and down the UK are very busy, with hearings regularly being cancelled at the last minute and judgments taking much longer than the four-week period users of the ET are told to expect.

In light of this sharp increase in tribunal cases, it would be prudent for employers to place a renewed emphasis on ensuring that all grievances and disciplinary procedures follow company policy and take into account Acas guidance.